Sunday, January 31, 2021

White Owl New Loop - 1/30/21

Las Vegas Bay from High Point on Powerline Road

White Owl Nest

Shoreline Trail

Hiking Shoreline Trail
Okay. Let's talk. The short version of Shoreline / White Owl Canyon Loop is great for a stroll but then there is that 0.75 to 1 mile of bike path. The long version of White Owl Canyon has that 0.75 mile ascent stretch of gravel wash after the last scramble and the steep and rather treacherous up and around the almost impossible slot in the descent wash. Hey! That's fine if that floats your boat! The version of Shoreline / White Owl Canyon that the Three Musketeers did today takes out a lot of the bike path, that stretch of gravel wash and the "not-so-fun" up and around the slot. Instead, it adds in a nice climb of 237' gain and views of the lake from the top! We also nailed down the route from the picnic area to the cars should you decide to forego the Hippie Canyon scramble. 

Lake Las Vegas Wash

We parked at the end of the old Las Vegas Marina below the old ranger station on Lakeshore Road. This turnoff is 2.25 miles from the Lake Mead Parkway entrance fee booth to Lake Mead NRA.

Dry Las Vegas Bay

The Shoreline Trail begins to the right past the concrete barriers at the end of the boat ramp. A group of someones has been maintaining this trail and it is in tiptop condition as we speak. It follows the flow of the Lake Las Vegas Wash but most of the time, you cannot see the water. However, do look for water birds such as blue herons and white egrets like we saw today.

Heading into White Owl Canyon

Entering White Owl Canyon
The rock-lined trail continues around the rocks until the next picnic area is within sight above. Two different paths lead to White Owl Canyon entrance in the mud rocks and sandstone 0.25 mile up from the water. We followed the trail into the canyon and began to speak in hushed tones. The owl is rarely there but it will most definitely not be there if it hears you coming! Within the rounded mud walls, we were surprised to find that an owl's nest is not where it was for many years but on the other side a little deeper into the canyon. As you can see by the second photo, it is large and obvious to the seeker. There were two large bundles of fluff that had fallen out of the nest along the canyon bottom. Must be a very cozy nest!

Inside White Owl Canyon

We continued through the canyon, took our group photo and exited. A single culvert immediately opened wide. We crossed through underneath Lakeshore Road.

White Owl Canyon

Soon, we were passing through one of two culverts that passed underneath the River Mountains Loop Trail. Out the other side, we passed a rock-lined path turning to the right. This is the normal turn for the short loop as mentioned above. It leads up to the bike path.

The Three Musketeers

First Culvert
So, we continued up the gravel wash. During the next half mile, we weaved through some narrows and made two scrambles up the slippery stone all in the same wash without turning to the left. Above the second scramble, when the route for the longer hike version usually turns to the left, we continued straight running right into the old abandoned powerline road. We found one cairn here. Climbing for the next 0.3 mile, we gained that 237 feet. At the high point, the view of the lake, Lava Butte, snowy mountains, and colorful canyon were a wonderful addition to our hike. To the south, we could even see Bighorn Butte rising above the hills. The old road divides just after the high point. We stayed to the right and began hiking along the rim of the colorful canyon to our right.

Large Chock Rock

The road began a gradual descent with views of Lava Butte and Lake Las Vegas to our left. Since the road had not been hiked on enough, there were many small round rocks with which to contend!

Weaving through the Scramble Slots

When the descent became steeper, a switchback was offered. We took one of the shortcuts that had been cut into the earth and passed a pair of tall wooden powerline poles.

The Second Scramble

Starting up the Powerline Road
As the old road continued, it became less steep and we could see it heading toward the bike path. After a couple of wash dips, the road slowly dropped down to junction with the bike path just above its mile point 14.5. Another 0.15 mile and we were passing over Hippie Canyon. There is a way to get down into the wash to the left here. We chose to bypass Hippie Canyon and find that elusive perfect way to get back to the cars otherwise. The end-of-the-road gate was another 0.2 mile and we descended down to the right to cross Lakeshore Road and enter the picnic area turnout. This turnout has a long entrance road and sits up on the cliffs above the trailhead and our cars. After a side visit to the restroom, we explored around looking at all the descents.
Starting down the Powerline Road

We wanted to find out what the concrete ruins were all about at the very end of the peninsula, too. We hiked down the path at the very end of the picnic area and surveyed the ruins.

Powerline Road and Las Vegas Bay

As yet, the best guess that Chuck H. and I have is that this ruined concrete structure used to be an overlook of sorts. When the lake was at full capacity, the water came up to around 50'-100' below this point. Another speculation is that it was a science station for water traffic and water levels.

Near junction of Powerline Road and River Mountains Loop Trail

Crossing the Picnic Area
Following the use trail past the ruins, we found what we were looking for. A deep gravel trail led down the hillside. It was easy footing all the way down to a level above the Shoreline Trail that we could see below. We turned to the left and followed the use trail around the corner and dropped exactly into where our cars were parked. The alternate route instead of Hippie Canyon is great! ... And, it has a restroom! 

We had too much fun, today, exploring new stuff!

Stats: 5.4 miles; 800' gain; 2.75 hours (no lunch break)

Ruins above Shoreline Trail

Trail down to Shoreline Trail from Picnic Area

View back at above Trail

Friday, January 29, 2021

Calico Hills Loop CW in Snow - 1/28/21

Calico Hills Trail approaching Sandstone Quarry

Rattlesnake Trail view back to Escarpment

Climbing to Kraft Saddle with Gateway Canyon to Left

Kay and Rita above Calico Basin
What a perfect day for a hike at Red Rock! And, there were very few hikers in the park! Very few! Most of the snow had fallen three days ago. Therefore, most of the snow below about 4000 elevation feet had melted. It was cold. We were bundled up to start from the Red Springs Picnic Area parking lot. We parked near the evidence in 4 different places that cars had been broken into in the last 2 days. (Broken window debris.) More and more people are getting cameras for their vehicles, so beware ne'er do wells!  We found the trail that leads up from the parking lot to climb the hill to the south. The view of Calico Basin and the surrounding hills and mountains was outstanding! ... and that was just the beginning.

Red Springs and Calico Basin

Down to the wash and up to the following ridge and we were warming up fast. The trail took us around the south end of the Calico Hills with a beautiful view of the snow dusted Sandstone Bluffs in the distance.

Hiking around south end of Calico Hills

As we hiked up to Calico I turnout on the Calico Hills Trail, we enjoyed the escarpment views that had been hidden in the clouds for a day or two.

Sandstone Bluffs (Rainbow, Mescalito, & Bridgepoint) behind Moenkopi Hill

Hiking between Calico I & Calico II
Between Calico I and Calico II turnouts, we saw small pockets of snow in the rocks. There was also clumps of snow on top of large grass clumps and blackbrush along the trail. There was still a high cloud cover over the park so the colors of the rock were deep contrasting with the white snow. We dropped into the wash to pass through beneath Calico II and, a little later, we had to do a wardrobe change in the warming sun. About half way between Calico II and Sandstone Quarry, snow began to be more prevalent on the hillside leaving the trail clear. Closing in on Sandstone Quarry, there was a little more snow on the trail. We counted 14 cars in the quarry parking lot but only a handful of hikers were around. We passed through and out toward Turtlehead Peak. Our group photo was taken here. There was a lot more snow in this area of the northern Calico Hills and beyond.

Wash below Calico II

I couldn't stop taking photos of the frozen scenery! Rita and Mike were very patient with me as they also enjoyed walking through the wonderland that so very rarely happens at Red Rock Canyon NCA. 

Hiking between Calico II and Sandstone Quarry

We ducked through the snowy greenery at the beginning of the Calico Tanks Trail and turned left onto the Rattlesnake Trail. Even though the sandstone was only topped by the fluffy stuff, there was some snow underfoot and the bushes appeared like basketballs of white.

                                                                    Sandstone Quarry

The Triad
We walked through the redstone corridor and turned left. A check of the small slot passage told us that there was a 6" puddle inside and a hike around the slot would be suggested since the stone was wet and possibly slippery if we were to scramble around the puddle. Hiking over the sandstone to the left of the slot was more beautiful anyway. Following the Rattlesnake Trail route, we climbed up the hill and began following the trail along the north side of the sandstone hills. The trail was mostly snow free albeit narrow. But, this area was by far the snowiest of the day. I think I stopped every 20' for another photo! Arriving at the large rock outcropping below Red Cap, we chose a few dry seats for our break.

Calico Tanks Trail
To my left, there was an icicle about 20" long! From the top of the rocks, there were nice views of Ash Canyon Overlook and Gray Cap.

Rattlesnake Trail

After the break, we continued down the hill toward Rattlesnake Wash. The limestone rocks in the wash were a little slippery but we did okay negotiating them and using the trail on the left side.

Rattlesnake Trail

Entering the Northern Calico Hills
This part of the hike took some concentration so that we didn't fall on our behind. And, finally, we came to the junction with Gateway Canyon to turn right. Again wary of the nature of wet limestone, we carefully dropped down a few of the canyon's scramble opportunities starting with the "Sliding Board." A couple more drops and we were in the gravel descending the middle portion of Gateway. The previously huge cairn that marked the right turn of Rattlesnake Trail is now a skinny little thing. The rocks are strewn about right there if anyone wants to build it back up. We turned and began our final long climb of the day. As seen in the third photo of this entry, most of the snow in this area was gone. Still, the landscape colors were amazing with just the bush snow and rock crack snow to add to them.

View Back to the Sandstone Bluffs

When we reached the Kraft Mountain saddle above 5-Stop Hill, we passed the first hikers of the day. We all stopped to talk since we knew one of the hikers.

Rattlesnake Trail

We were in no hurry to finish the last portion of this awesome hike. This will definitely be one hike for the history books!

View Back on the Rattlesnake Trail

Ash Canyon Overlook from Rattlesnake Trail
We gazed down into Calico Basin and noticed that most of the snow there had melted even from this morning. Any worries that 5-Stop Hill would be slippery dissipated. Down the hill and veering to the right, we followed a trail that led toward Ash Creek. The creek had snow lining its sides but that was all the white stuff here. Ash Canyon had a good amount of snow but that would probably be gone soon. We connected with the Girl Scout Trail above the old filled-in foundation. This trail traverses below the red sandstone and passes through the old picnic area that is almost never used. I say "almost" because today, there was someone sitting at a table reading. A perfect place to study!

Rattlesnake Wash Trail

Down the hill from the tables, we crossed the small wash and stepped up onto the Calico Hills sandstone base. Of course, we began seeing other hikers as we neared the parking lot.

Down the Sliding Board

We turned left at the first opportunity then veered to the right. This trail wiggles you down to the Red Springs parking lot.

Points of Interest

Rita starting down Gateway Canyon
Lucky for the bandits, there were no cars broken into while we were away. My car has cameras! This was an absolutely wonderful day in a snowy wonderland. Just the right amount of snow for hikers to enjoy. And, thank you to Mike and Rita for allowing me to take more than twice the amount of photos I usually take on a hike!

Stats: 7.4 miles; 1700' gain; 4.5 hours (lots of photos!)

Snow in Redbud Corner

Gateway Colors from Rattlesnake Trail Hill

Kraft Saddle view into Calico Basin